I think it’s easy to say “Man. 2016 sucked,” and just leave it at that. But this year was so much more complicated than a mere label of “sucked” or “rocked”.
I started the year deciding to use the word “pause” as my focus. To be honest, I forgot about choosing a word; I only remembered when I went back to my January posts. Although I forgot about it, I must have subconsciously applied it anyway. I feel like I’ve cut way back on my knee-jerk reaction to yell at my kids, and have done a better job asking, “What just happened?” I’ve also allowed myself to just sit and watch my children interact with each other and play on their own. I notice them more and make more of an effort to know them as individuals.
Since the political situation has been so dividing this year, I have really had to bite my tongue and sit on my hands to keep from spouting off my own opinions–which would have only further divided and antagonized rather than bring understanding or love. I’ve had to pause and really think about saying things, sharing things, or even “liking” things.
March brought some changes to our lives: Alice turned one, Charlie turned four, and we had to change daycare moms since ours decided to pursue a new career opportunity. I also turned thirty-eight. I did a lot of reflecting in March especially about having a daughter. Cortney also told me that I needed to either “shit or get off the pot” about pursuing a PhD. He did the math and by the time I applied, was accepted, and enrolled, I would be starting in the fall of 2018…when I am forty. It’s time to get moving.
April brought us spring break. We took the boys to the Chicago area for a fun night in a hotel and a trip to the Lego store. We can call it fun now, but at the time I thought Cortney’s head would explode. The boys–Charlie especially–did not do super awesome. There were tantrums. I also took Charlie to the doctor during spring break because he had stopped eating and was losing weight. I’m still not 100% sure what was wrong, but after that doctor visit and having him hear how important healthy food was to his body, he has been a great eater! He even found he likes roasted asparagus! Plus his tantrums have reduced to close to none.
In May I was part of the Southwest Michigan Listen to Your Mother cast. That was a HUGE accomplishment and honor for me.
June was a big month: our 11th anniversary, Eddie turned seven, my high school diploma turned twenty. Plus summer break started. My wonderful, supportive, loving family also did the Climb Out of Darkness “climb” with me.
2016 was the first summer in a LONG time that I didn’t look forward to school starting. Not that I don’t love the start of a new school year–I totally do–but this summer we found such a good balance and I was able to enjoy my kids and the routine we happily fell into. We went to the library, the Farmer’s Market, and lots of parks. We did crafts and played outside and sat around. There were days where there was far too much screen time, but there were also days where we splashed at the splash pad or played with cousins on the beach.
We had the right amount of together time, alone time, and road-trip time. I had two days a week when the kids went to daycare which gave me much needed time run errands and clean solo…and also to get some rest. They were able to play with friends and have a change of scenery and get away from each other if they wanted. We went to the cottage with my parents as a family, but Cortney and I also went to Chicago to see Pearl Jam by ourselves.
In August, I had surgery to repair a hernia. That was dumb. The hernia was dumb, the surgery went well, but recovering was dumb. It put me out of commission for longer than I would have liked, but at least we have the insurance to cover it and I was able to get it done without having to miss work. But it was dumb.
September brought the crazy of all the things starting again: school, church stuff, scouts. Eddie chose not to do soccer this year and while I was bummed, I didn’t miss spending Saturday mornings in the rain and cold to watch him whine about running. Eddie started 2nd grade this year and Mr. Charlie Bird started preschool! Very exciting to have two-thirds of the Sluiter kids in school!
The fall also brought some of the worst anxiety I’ve had about politics and society in ages. We had a racist incident happen at a home football game where I teach, and I stood up and said something on Facebook. I got shamed and belittled by the other schools parents and students. They claimed because it wasn’t their intent, our saying it was raciest (it was not just me, but of course they used me as a scapegoat) was ignorant, wrong, and making them look bad. It brought to light just how far we still have to go as a society to recognize that other people’s feelings aren’t wrong, and good intent does not equal everything being honkeydory.
As the fall went on, we were busy, but good as a family. However it felt like our nation–and maybe the world–was falling apart. We kept reading, and going to school, and scouting, and loving each other. Cortney was nominated and confirmed as a deacon in our church. I took on the position of Religious Coordinator for Eddie’s Cub Scout Pack. I attended and presented at The Michigan Council of English Teachers annual Fall Conference. I also flew to Atlanta for the National Council of English Teachers conference (where I presented) as well as the Assembly on Literature of Adolescents of the NCTE.
I didn’t blog much this fall. To be honest, as a family we were doing really well, but man. We have been busy. And my brain just hasn’t been able to get all the stuff out of my head and onto this space.
In November I voted for a woman for president for the first time. The next day I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I have been having anxiety and issues processing what a Trump presidency will look like. To be honest, I am scared. I think that is all worth it’s own post, but while we gave thanks in November, I also found myself worrying about my students, my family, and my friends who are not straight, white, rich men (so almost all of us). As Eddie became more and more interested in the news on TV, I found myself answering hard questions about the kindness of leaders and why it’s hard to completely trust any of our leaders.
This month has been a mix of anxiety and hope.
I feel a new wave of troubling emotions each day over our President Elect, but I also have been quieter and more joyful with my children. I have been watching them play alone and with each other. I’ve been trying to hug them and listen to them more.
I feel more hope than ever before when new babies are born to friends and family (we welcome a new nephew in November!)
This year has been good to the Sluiters, but it’s also shown us how much hate, racism, and injustice there still is out there. So while we have been happy in our own little house, we are well aware of how terrible this year has been out there.
For Christmas, Cortney gave me this ring. It could not be a better symbol of hope to take with me into 2017.
I don’t know if we are going to get some sort of beautiful miracle in 2017 or if nuclear warfare will break out. Or something in between. What I do know is that the Sluiters will be doing what we can to put in the work to make the world a little bit better.
Happy New Year, everyone.